Thursday, February 21, 2013

Memories of the West

Here are some quick studies I've been posting to my Facebook page each day. These paintings are anywhere between 30-80 minutes. A large part of my childhood was spent in New Mexico and Utah. They are two places I absolutely love. I wanted to catch some of those good old memories that sparked my imagination from the places my parents took my brother, sisters and I.  I guess what I'm trying to say is that these places and ideas are special to me. 

Red Labyrinth 

Padre Bay, Lake Powell

Red Rockin Cowboy

Riding Cowboy

La Entrada-The Entrance

Train Thief

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Some thoughts on Color Part II

Thank you for the feedback on my last post and your thoughts/comments on other platforms. It is great talking to you and I've based this post solely on comments I've received. As always, I hope this might be helpful as you solve your own artistic obstacles.

Question #1-How do you create a warm and cool for each color?

Creating a warm and a cool for each color first and foremost is directly affected by my painting's color scheme. Everything is relative to THIS particular piece I'm working on. The decisions I make here may or may not work for another. This emphasizes the importance of the block in even more.
This is the foundation for any good painting. It is literally the underpainting and much of it will still show through in the final product.
The block in from this lilly pad painting is labeled (3); it shows my local color. Local color can be described as the hue under neutral light. For the water, I had to choose a reflected color showing sky and the underside of a tree. I know water is clear but I'm just painting what I see not what I know. The lilly pads are a cooler green RELATIVE to the warmer blue and brown of the water. I keep this in mind moving forward.
From here, I can start dropping things into light and shadow, painting strokes right over my block in. (Remember, the block in will be your starting point for each color now. Anywhere you want to take the painting needs to start from your block in colors; it will likewise create cohesiveness in your piece)
To drop something into shadow I start with my local color. I lower the value and increase the saturation. To cool it down, I take my hue toward a cooler color slightly. This will give me a nice subtle shift. You can see this in action with the lower right lilly pads in shadow(3)-(4). When something needs to be hit with light, I simply raise the value (from my local color) but don't touch the saturation or hue. Then I lay down a stroke over my original block in. You can see this with the lilly pads in light (4). There is no universal rule to creating warm and cool but when you've done it, you'll feel the vibration in your eyes.

I've enlarged (4) so you can see the color bars on A, B, & C. These are local colors. D & E, show local color with color in light.

Question #2-What is your workflow like in one of these studies?

There are so many great artists out there and different approaches to accomplishing the same thing. Personally, I pull up a new canvas and select US Paper. I choose 8 x 10 in. (300 dpi/CMYK in case I ever want to print) and change the canvas color to a neutral grey. Depending on my subject, I crop the canvas to support my composition.
With a bristle brush at full opacity and pen pressure enabled (default PS4 12 pixel brush), I lay in some quick lines and loosely layout the design for my composition. Because these are color studies, I spend very little time worrying about a perfect design. I work on one layer to keep things moving along and encourage my confidence.
Initially, I'm looking to get some big, medium, and small shapes incorporated into the composition. My co-worker Jason Sadler has created some nice thoughts on this here. Sometimes, if my subject is simple enough, I will immediately block in color without any line work. Once again, the purpose of the study is color and not so much design so I'll proportion most of my time for the painting.
The block in is a crucial part of the painting. If I don't see an immediate read, I've got to modify colors or value until it works; it's usually value. Like I mentioned earlier, if it's not working here then it won't work bigger. It only gets more complicated and frustrating if I enlarge to begin detailing. I could paint it till an asteroid hits my mailbox (which surprisingly may be soon) and I'd still be working things out. Once the block in excites me, I begin working out light design. I ask myself where the light is coming from. I ask what temperature the light is. I think about properties of light on the surfaces within my canvas. I lay in bold strokes to experiment. At this stage I usually see some happy accidents but there are lots of sad ones too. The canvas is still thumbnail size.
The painting is now at a place where it needs to be enlarged. Depending on its purpose, I expand it and work on rendering my shapes. I'm thinking about surfaces again. I'm looking to keep it simple. I wait till the end to add highlights and my darkest darks.
When I think its done, I walk away from my computer/tablet/easel and get something to eat. I don't want to be hungry while I paint and the food is stimulating for the mind. When I come back and see it anew, I find it really easy to spot problems. I take a couple minutes and fix them or pat myself on the back. There is nothing more gratifying than nailing my block in and later the detailing.
These studies I've been posting usually last between 30-50 min. depending on my snack break. Peanut butter and jelly is highly recommended (crunchy...not smooth)!

Question #3-Can you expand on “color relationships” and “designing light”?

All that a color relationship means is that one of your colors is cooler than the other. So, it also means one color is warmer. My painting will feel flat and washed out if I can't get my relationships working. When I started designing light in this painting (4), I started with the center of attention, the flower. I chose the local color to be a warm white. When I “designed” or chose the color next to it, I made it cooler. My lilly pads and the water (two colors touching the flower) are RELATIVELY cooler than the white. And the pattern continues. As I work my way out to the rest of the subject matter, I look for a way to put a cool and a warm side by side. I am designing the color relationships to work against one another in light. I am designing the color relationships to work with each other in the shadows.
JoaquĆ­n Sorolla is a master of designing color relationships. Often, I've pulled up his paintings to analyze how he treated shadows and lights. This has been to my utmost benefit and inspired me to try new things.

I hope you find this helpful. I learned a lot writing my thoughts down as I tried to explain what I'm thinking. Also, thank you so much for sharing these things virally with your friends. I've met so many great new artists since the last post!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Some thoughts on Color

As I've been posting color studies on my FB page I've heard some re-occurring questions/comments regarding painting. I want to take a second and expand on those topics. I'm not a master painter but hopefully this can be as helpful to you as it has been to me. 

Question #1-How do you keep the colors harmonized when you use so many? 

I think one of the best books I've ever read is, Alla Prima by Richard Schmid. One particular section talked about placing colors side by side as you work, rather than blocking in all around the image and laying in randomly. Schmid highly recommends laying each stroke next to another stroke on the canvas so you can easily see color relationships. As you know, colors affect how we interpret those colors around them. You could have a completely desaturated grey and lay it down with a warm cadmium red and that grey will appear as cool as a spring cyan sky. Moving in a flow with your paint will save you time and increase accuracy. It's hard enough to paint a good image. Make it easy on yourself and lay colors side by side until you've blocked in the entire piece. There are so many benefits to doing this.  One of them is seeing the big picture in terms of color harmony. If you can see the big picture, it's easy to solve the problem. If you can't see the big picture, then you're only seeing part of it, therefore, you can only solve part of the problem, if that. If you've blocked in correctly, you will immediately see where you lie. If it doesn't excite you, start over. 

This leads into the next topic.

Question #2-How are you doing these studies so quickly? How long do you spend on them? Do you use a tablet, computer or traditional medium?

When I do a study, I'm either outside on location or inside looking at a photo. I use a tablet with a painting app, a laptop with photoshop 4, or oil paints (Windsor & Newton, Lefranc, Rembrandt). When I am outside it's usually during my lunch break. I know I've got 45 minutes to knock something out so I work quickly to block in the values and make the temperatures work. In 5-10 minutes, I know if the painting is working. If its not working, I recheck my values. If the values are working, I recheck my color relationships. If color relationships are working, I ask a co-worker nearby what they think. If I'm alone, well, I might go climb a tree or something. Usually, I can solve the issue in one of those first two questions (assuming I laid down a strong design; I never start painting unless my design is solid). 

When I'm working inside from a photo, I apply the exact same principles. I find a reference that inspires me. I bring it up on the monitor to the side of my canvas. From there, I shrink both images down and lay in colors quickly. The advantage to working on a computer is being able to shrink the image down small. I can go twice as fast because my strokes cover more. There are disadvantages or temptations to a computer. Color dropping is like a dangerous drug; it gives you a temporary boost but when it's all over you're left lower than you started (you're probably wondering what a Mormon boy knows about drugs...not a whole lot. This analogy is over) I committed myself during college to never color drop. This was the best decision I made because I was forced to make decisions. As I've began to understand color more, I've seen opportunities to exaggerate and manipulate it. This is the funnest part of painting!

Question #3-What is the most important thing in painting color?

In my opinion, the most important things in painting color are VALUE, LOCAL COLOR, and RELATIONSHIPS. 

VALUE-This is the grayscale version of your painting. If your value is off, everything is off. When I paint, I spend the most time perfecting the value in the thumbnail. Once thats good, it's quite enjoyable. You can see the end from the beginning and experiment with colors. 

LOCAL COLOR-This is the color of your subject with no light affecting it. Once you lock this down, it's fairly simple rendering out the rest. If you dont understand the local color, the result will muddy your image and weaken the overall punch.

COLOR RELATIONSHIPS-This is how a color looks next to another color. It is either warmer or cooler. A painting is all about laying warms and cools next to one another. There is no universal rule to what is warm and cool. One thing that helped me a great deal was learning how to make a warm and cool for each color.

I hope this is useful in some way. Thanks for visiting my blog and supporting my work. I can't tell you how much I appreciate the encouragement and friendships from this small world we work in.